The first is to acquiesce to Tehran and hope for the best. Perhaps deterrence will work and the six-decade moratorium on using atomic weapons will remain in place. Perhaps the Iranian leadership will shed its messianic outlook. Perhaps no other states will repeat Iran’s decision to flaunt the rules they had promised to obey.
The key words in this scenario are “hope” and “perhaps,” with the proverbial wing and prayer replacing strategic plans. This is not, to put it mildly, the usual way great powers conduct business.
The second prospect consists of the U.S. government (and perhaps some allies) destroying key Iranian installations, thereby delaying or terminating Tehran’s nuclear aspirations. Military analysts posit that American airpower, combined with good intelligence and specialized ordinance, suffice to do the needed damage in a matter of days; plus, it could secure the Straits of Hormuz.
But an attack will have unfavorable consequences, and especially in two related areas: Muslim public opinion and the oil market. All indications suggest that air strikes would cause the now-alienated Iranian population to rally to its government. Globally, air strikes would inflame already hostile Muslim attitudes toward the United States, leading to a surge in support for radical Islam and a further separation of civilizations. News reports indicate that Tehran is funding terrorist groups so that they can assault American embassies, military bases, and economic interests, step up attacks in Iraq, and launch rockets against Israel.
Even if Western military forces can handle these challenges, air raids may cause Iranians and their supporters to withhold oil and gas from the market, engage in terror against energy infrastructure, and foment civil unrest, all of which could create an economic downturn rivaling the energy-induced recession of the mid-1970s.
Faced with these two unappealing alternatives, I conclude, along with Senator John McCain, a Republican of Arizona, that “There’s only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option. That is a nuclear-armed Iran.”
But is there a third, more palatable option? Finding it is the goal of every analyst who addresses the topic, including this one. That third option necessarily involves a mechanism to dissuade the Iranian regime from developing and militarizing its atomic capabilities. Does such a deterrence exist?
Essentially Pipes says that we can hope that there is an internal movement in Iran that modifys or smoothes their stance somewhat. I am not real optimistic about that.
Victor David Hanson suggests that we do something along these lines:
“The solutions bandied about so far? Let the “seasoned pros” in Europe play the good, diplomatic cop to the “unpredictable, eager-for-a-fight” American bad cop. Or involve Russia and China in more diplomacy in hopes they will value regional stability over their own economic interests. Then there’s the U.N. option â€” could the international body redeem itself after the oil-for-food scandal with sanctions and embargoes?
But given recent history, and how hell-bent Iran’s leaders are on pursuing its nuclear program â€” for weapons, not, as they so often profess, merely for energy â€” it is hard to imagine that, on their own, these proposed solutions will amount to much.
The good news is that Iran, like all ossified societies in the current era of globalized communications, is unstable. The eighth-century theocrats in charge there could find their own citizens questioning whether a bomb is worth international ostracism and the threat of military strikes.
At the same time, what’s happening now in Iraq must be of great concern to the Iranian leadership. Jawad al-Maliki, the new Iraqi prime minister, for example, is a nationalist. He, like other Iraqi Shiites, has shown he is not willing to be an Iranian pawn. As Ahmadinejad promotes death, how will Iranians react to images from Iraq of life-affirming free citizens in a new democracy?
In other words, will Iraq’s new liberality prove more destabilizing to Iran than Ahmadinejad’s agents can to Iraq? As Iraq’s 300,000-strong army emerges as a well-trained and equipped force, one suspects the answer is yes.
Notice: George Bush has been relatively silent during the crisis; Ahmadinejad is the one losing his composure on center stage. Nearly daily he shouts to the cameras about wiping Israel off the map or unleashing his Islamic terrorists throughout the globe.
In the brief present window between Iran’s enrichment and its final step to weapons-grade production, we must keep calm and give Ahmadinejad even more rope to hang himself. As his present hysteria grows, exasperated Europeans or jittery neighbors in the region may even prod the U.S. to take action â€” indeed, to be a little more unilateral and preemptive in letting the Iranians know that their acquisition of a nuclear weapon will never happen.
For now, our best peaceful weapon in the little time that we have left is, oddly, our own quiet and hope that a democratizing Iraq stabilizes, and in turn destabilizes undemocratic Iran. So let the loud Ahmadinejad continue to make our case why such a psychopath cannot be allowed to become nuclear. Meanwhile, give confident multilateral internationalists their long-awaited chance at diplomacy, and prepare for the worst.”
And what is the latest from Iran:
“JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) — Iran’s president has said he is willing to negotiate with the United States and other world powers over his country’s nuclear program, even as he stepped up his rhetoric against Israel.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a visit to Indonesia, told a gathering of students that every country had the right to use new technology to meet its energy needs, not just America, The Associated Press reported.
He also called Israel “a tyrannical regime” heading for destruction, echoing his earlier calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, AP said.
Ahmadinejad said his country was willing to open talks with the West, but that the United States first must drop its “bad attitude.”
“We are not only defending our rights, we are defending the rights of many other countries,” he said, according to AP. “By maintaining our position, we are defending our independence.”
Ahmadinejad’s visit to Indonesia — a Muslim majority nation with close ties to Tehran — comes amid a deepening standoff over his country’s nuclear program and suspicions it is developing nuclear weapons.”
I am not real happy about this situation. I think that this guy is serious and not some blowhard looking to save face. He doesn’t use language that makes me think he is going to take a position that allows for moderation. I think that this is more than rhetoric and that we should take his threats very seriously.
I don’t have a perfect answer or solution to this, but I find sitting on our hands and hoping that the world takes a unified stance on this to be quite troubling.